Regular readers know that I am a proud Canadian who lived in Japan for three years.
I also enjoyed playing soccer. I also coached it for about seven years with my buddy Rob Jones.
We coached women's soccer.
Oh... and did I mention that I was born in London, England?
So... how appropriate is it that Canadian Women's soccer team plays the Japanese women's soccer team to open up the London 2012 Olympics this year?
Very, I dare say.
On July 25, 2012, those two teams will play each other at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, two days before the actual opening ceremonies. Make no mistake... this is the first game of the Olympic soccer tournament, and the very first event of the Olympics.
Ookay, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. The actual first game will be between Great Britain and New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
They are starting early to ensure all the games will fit into the schedule.
Canada is no slouch in soccer - at least when it comes to women's soccer. Rob and I will gladly attest that women soccer players are tough. Tougher than the men, I think. They may not have the same speed or skill as their male counterparts (a free observation for which you may all tell me I am full of it), but I firmly believe they more than make-up for those short-coming with more heart, desire and verve, and dare I say it - more passion.
Sorry... this blog actually celebrates women's soccer.
According to FIFA rankings, Canada is #7, Japan #3 - and they are grouped together in what can only be a group of death with the 5th ranked Swedes and the 65th ranked South Africans.
Fans of soccer should keep an eye on this bracket.
“There is a bit of clarity now and that is exciting,” says Canadian coach John Herdman. “We can now start to focus on the technical blueprints and draw the route back from the gold-medal game.”
There are 12 teams in total for the women, in this year's Olympic tourney, encompassing 216 talented female players.
In the other two groups, reigning Olympic champion (2008) United States was drawn with France, Colombia and North Korea in Group G.
While the 2012 host team of Great Britain was drawn in Group E to face New Zealand as well as Cameroon and Brazil.
The top two teams from each group plus two of the three third-place teams advance to the quarter-final phase.
The quarter-finals are scheduled for August 3, the semi-finals are August 6, and the medal games August 9, 2012.
I believe that the women's tournament will take place in six fields in Wales, Scotland and England. No Ireland, unfortunately in such venues as: City of Coventry Stadium, (Coventry); Hampden Park (Glasgow, Scotland); Millennium Stadium (Cardiff, Wales); Old Trafford (Manchester, England); St James' Park (Newcastle, England); Wembley Stadium (London, England).
Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife will keep you up to date on the scores with write-ups on some of the games.